Reducing power consumption of ceiling fans, one of the most used electrical appliances in India, has the potential of paring energy demand and carbon emissions

The superfan manufacturing facility in Coimbatore (Photo by Versa Drives)

The superfan manufacturing facility in Coimbatore (Photo by Versa Drives)

With a user base of almost 350 million, ceiling fans are one of the most used appliances in India. However, in terms of energy efficiency, they are the most ignored. Superfans, which consume 35 watts of power, almost 50% lower than a typical ceiling fan, have the potential to reduce energy demand and carbon emissions, provided government takes proactive measures to promote them.

India has 350 million fan users and some 30 million are added to this number every year. Leaving out fans out of the ambit of energy efficiency measures that have led to widespread use of CFL and LED lights results in the loss of an opportunity to realize significant energy savings, according to a paper titled Ceiling Fan — The Overlooked Appliance by Pune-based NGO Prayas. Fans consume about 20% of the electricity in Indian households, and their numbers are growing rapidly, the study noted. To run these fans, 2,000 MW of power has to be generated every year. The study stated that we should be able to save at least 15 watts in every fan. Indian fans run at a medium speed, which amounts to 220 hours in a year if they operate for seven hours a day.

This paper caught the attention of Durgasharan Krishnamurthy, Director, Versa Drives, a Coimbatore-based company that makes drives for electronics. “We heard about super efficiency appliance drive, which said that ceiling fan should consume only 35 watts of power,” Krishnamurthy told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

Versa Drives was one of the earliest Indian companies that ventured into making super-efficient fans using brushless DC (BLDC) technology.

“Regular fans do not talk about energy consumption. They just mention the size, model name, etc. When we decided to work on Superfan, we wanted to specify that it consumed just 35 watts of energy,” Sundar Muruganandhan, Managing Director, Versa Drives told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “For us, every miliwatt was important. We wanted to keep Superfan in a category where irrespective of the size of the fan, it consumes only 35 watts.”

Carbon savings

For every one unit of electricity saved, 600 grams of carbon emission is saved. Muruganandhan says, “Where a normal fan runs for 13 hours and consumes one unit of electricity, Superfan runs for 29 hours, consuming the same one unit of power.” For every Superfan purchased, coal consumption is reduced by 73 kg, and carbon emission is reduced by 90 kg every year.

Currently, the energy efficiency of Superfan is 56%, and we want to push it by an additional 18%”, says Muruganandhan. The company is working on technologies to achieve this efficiency.

Muruganandhan believes that India can reduce the demand for energy if people start using superfans. “If we need a nuclear plant to produce 1,000 MW of energy. For every 1 MW of power, we need to spend INR 60 million (USD 0.9 million). For a 1,000 MW plant, we need to invest INR 60 billion. However, before this we can look at how we can reduce 1,000 MW demand. If we replace 2.5 million ceiling fans with superfans, we can save 1,000 MW. After the invested money is recovered, every unit is a unit of energy saved.”

Massive energy savings

Versa Drives won various awards for making superfan. It won the DuPont Safety and Sustainability Award in 2015. The citation from DuPont mentioned that if superfans replaced all the ceiling fans in the world, global residential energy consumption could be reduced by 70 terawatt hours annually. One terawatt hour is enough energy to power a city of 200,000 for a year.

The fan industry in India is dominated by eight brands that capture 60% of the market share. The less-known brands in the organized fan market have 25% market share and small manufacturers hold the remaining 15%.

To promote super-efficient fans, in 2014, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) earmarked INR 3.5 billion. However, for companies to bid for this, there was a condition. These companies should have sold 300,000 fans for a consecutive period of three years. Muruganandhan says, “We could not even apply for the bid under this condition.”

BEE-certified fans that consumed 50 watts of power were introduced in the market. However, these fans failed to perform. Ajay Mathur, former director, BEE told indiaclimatedialogue.net, “Less than 5% of people purchased these fans.”

The reason was that air delivery from BEE-certified fans was not satisfactory to the consumers. “The BEE rating system had an issue. Five star rating was given to fans with minimum airflow of 200 cubic metres per minute, consuming 50 watts of power. The service value of fan is determined by air delivered. With airflow of 210 divided by 50 watts, the number comes to 4.2. Now, any fan above 4 comes under five star rating. Superfan has a rating of 6.2, and since there was no different star rating category, we will come under normal category. The rating system needs to be changed,” says Muruganandhan.

Super fans in state housing scheme

In government of India’s housing scheme, where two LED lamps and a fan is given, superfan can make a huge difference in reducing the demand for solar panels. Muruganandhan says, “For two LED lamps, we would need 16 watts, and for a fan 75 watts to 90 watts. With superfan, one can save 40 watts and reduce the number of panels needed. In off-grid areas, this can reduce the demand for solar panels.”

“We have installed 2000 superfans that run on stand-alone or grid-connected solar PV systems. In stand-alone solar PV systems, battery capacity is one of the limiting factors. With superfan, energy consumption is reduced by 50% or more, which means that with the same battery capacity you get twice the amount of ceiling fan operating hours,” Toine Van Megen, Co-Founder, Auroville Consulting, told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “Conversely, you can reduce the battery capacity or the solar PV capacity for the same amount of ceiling fan operating time. In the case of grid-connected solar PV systems, you can reduce the solar PV installed capacity if you target a certain energy consumption offset.”

Prayas’s study suggests that market transformation in room air-conditioners, refrigerators, television sets and ceiling fans has the potential to save 60 million units of electricity in India. This translates to avoiding a peak capacity addition of 20,000 MW.

Muruganandhan believes that if a large fan company enters the competition, demand for super-efficient fans would increase, just the way Philips entered the LED market and slashed the price. Megen says, “The government can have a bridge finance model, where some difference in the cost of a normal ceiling fan and superfan can be financed. The consumer can bear a portion of this cost. This would bring down the economies of scale and cost of superfan, making it a self-sustained model.”

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